More on Sparsity Aid Proposal

By John Forester | October 11, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker, who vetoed from the budget a plan to boost low-spending school districts by allowing them to collect more in property taxes, yesterday urged lawmakers to back a standalone bill to pump more money into state aid that benefits rural schools for 2018-19.

Under the proposal, rural districts with 745 students or less would get $400 per pupil through sparsity aid rather than the current $300. There also would be a second tier in the program for districts with between 746 and 1,000 pupils of $100 per student.

The plan, authored by state Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, mirrors the sparsity aid package Walker included in his budget. GOP lawmakers replaced it with a plan that would have allowed low-spending districts, now capped at $9,100 per student, to increase their revenue limits through 2022-23 by $100 a year.

Walker nixed that plan with one of the 99 vetoes he issued, actions he said improved the general fund balance by $16.5 million in the current biennium and about $71 million in 2019-21. He called on lawmakers to use that money for tax deduction and more sparsity aid.

The proposed bill carries a price tag of $9.7 million.

“Rural communities have unique challenges and our original state budget plan included a major boost for rural schools,” Walker said today. “I am pleased that Senator Marklein and Representative Mursau are introducing a bill incorporating initiatives from our budget proposal to help rural schools.”

Along with vetoing the low-spending district plan, Walker also nixed budget provisions GOP lawmakers included such as grants for whole grade sharing.

JFC Co-chair John Nygren said after hearing about the new proposal, he called Walker’s Chief of Staff Rich Zipperer to discuss ways they could work together to help rural schools that could include some ideas GOP lawmakers advanced, but the guv nixed.

“I think there might be an opportunity to look at ways to protect the taxpayer and yet address the inequity that exists,” the Marinette Republican said. “That’s going to be our direction. That’s going to be our charge to address the governor’s concern and yet address my policy initiative.”

Fellow Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said she supports the sparsity aid proposal. She also prefers a clean bill rather than including other ideas.

“I think Rep. Mary Felzkowski had some really good ideas,” Darling said of the JFC member’s education proposals. “But I think sparsity aid on its own as the governor had it in the budget is the way to go to get support.”

Marklein voted for the JFC education package even though he voiced reservations about the decision to drop Walker’s sparsity aid plan.

“I’m just happy that we’re going to take another run at it,” he said.

Mursau, meanwhile, said he’s been interested in the issue for several years, particularly after schools in his district lost out on the aid after enrollees in summer school pushed them above the limits to receive the aid. He said adding the second level of sparsity aid for districts between 746 and 1,000 students ensures they aren’t simply cut off if they barely come in above the current limit.

“At least it’s a slower let down than completely cutting it off,” he said.

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Walker Announces Support For New Increase In Sparsity Aid

By John Forester | October 10, 2017

This morning Governor Walker announced his support to further increase Sparsity Aid in the second year of this biennium.

See the press release here.

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Borsuk Column on Low Revenue Ceiling

By John Forester | October 6, 2017

Check out this column from Alan Borsuk on the low revenue ceiling.

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GOP Bill Would Force Police to Share Student Records

By John Forester | October 6, 2017

“Police would have to notify school administrators whenever they arrest a student for a violent crime and teachers could end their contracts without penalty if students attack them under a Republican bill that would relax juvenile criminal record confidentiality.

“The bill would also allow teachers to remove a student from a classroom for two days.”

Check out the remainder of the article written by Todd Richmond of the Associated Press.  The SAA has had discussions with Rep. Theisfeldt about the major concerns we have with the legislation.  Stay tuned.  The SAA will keep members up-to-date on any new developments.

Check out the Associated Press story here.

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Competitive Bidding Bill Clears Senate Committee

By John Forester | October 6, 2017

The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Local Government, chaired by Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), recommended  Senate Bill 236  for passage yesterday on a 4-3 party-line vote with Republican members of the committee supporting the bill.  The SAA testified in opposition to the bill earlier this week.

You might recall that, Senate Bill 236 would require that a school board, before entering into a contract for the construction, repair, remodeling, or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $75,000 (Senate Amendment 2 would reduce that figure to $50,000), must advertise or direct the school district clerk to advertise for proposals and must let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder.

The bill would also prohibit a school board from using a bidding method that gives preference based on the geographic location of the bidder or that uses criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder in awarding a contract.

The SAA will keep you informed of any developments regarding this important legislation.

SAA Testimony

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Thiesfeldt Drafting “Teacher Protection Act”

By John Forester | October 5, 2017

From The Wheeler Report:

A preliminary draft of legislation obtained by The Wheeler Report, shows Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt is drafting what he is calling the “Teacher Protection Act.” The bill aims to give teachers information about violent crimes committed by students. According to LRB-0917/P6, the bill would:

When asked about the bill draft Rep. Thiesfeldt said the bill has gone through many drafts and thinks “we could be on number nine right now.” Thiesfeldt said juvenile records are one of the issues they have had to consider while drafting the bill, but said he doesn’t think it will be an issue. Thiesfeldt said this bill would inform the teachers, that the student comes in contact with during the course of a day, that the student had been detained by the police. Thiesfeldt said this is “as much as for the teacher’s good as it is for the student’s good.” Thiesfeldt said there are differences in the bill drafts, but he believes it only includes teachers the student has contact with during the day and doesn’t include coaches and other staff. When asked about the “use of reasonable and necessary force under certain circumstances.” Thiesfeldt said those are already defined in statutes and this bill wouldn’t change those statutes, and that the bill shouldn’t infringe on any of the special needs laws about restraints. Thiesfeldt said that provision is about the teacher being able to protect themselves, protect other students, and protect the student from themselves when necessary.

Stay tuned.  This is clearly a piece of legislation the SAA will be very concerned about.  We will keep the membership up to date on any developments on this legislation.

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DPI Releases 2017-19 State Budget Summary

By John Forester | October 4, 2017

The DPI has released its full summary of the 2017-19 State Budget as it affects K-12 education, public libraries, etc…

 

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SAA Testifies Against Competitive Bidding Bill

By John Forester | October 3, 2017

SAA Executive Director John Forester testified in opposition to Senate Bill 236 today at a public hearing held before the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Local Government, chaired by Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac).

In addition, Waunakee Superintendent Randy Guttenberg and Julie Waner, Vice President of the Waunakee Board of Education, did a fabulous job in testifying in opposition to SB 236.

You might recall that, Senate Bill 236 would require that a school board, before entering into a contract for the construction, repair, remodeling, or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $75,000 (Senate Amendment 2 would reduce that figure to $50,000), must advertise or direct the school district clerk to advertise for proposals and must let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder.

The bill would also prohibit a school board from using a bidding method that gives preference based on the geographic location of the bidder or that uses criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder in awarding a contract.

Chairman Feyen has scheduled an executive session (committee vote) on the bill for this Thursday, October 5th.  The SAA will keep you informed of any developments regarding this important legislation.

SAA Testimony

Guttenberg/Waner Testimony

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U.S. Supreme Court Hears Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case

By John Forester | October 3, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court justices showed deep divisions Tuesday over a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin that could have far-reaching national implications.

Check out the coverage from the Milwaukee journal Sentinel here.

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Hearing Scheduled on Bill Requiring Schools to Use Competitive Bidding

By John Forester | September 27, 2017

The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Local Government, chaired by Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 236 requiring all school districts (including MPS) to utilize competitive bidding for school construction projects or for the furnishing of supplies or materials in excess of $75,000, next Tuesday, October 3 at 10:30am in Room 330SW, State Capitol.  An amendment to the bill that has been introduced would reduce the bidding threshold in the bill to $50,000, down from $75,000.  The bidding threshold in current law for counties, municipalities and other local governments other than schools is $25,000.

Senate Bill 236 would require that a school board, before entering into a contract for the construction, repair, remodeling, or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $75,000, must advertise or direct the school district clerk to advertise for proposals and must let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder.

The bill would also prohibit a school board from using a bidding method that gives preference based on the geographic location of the bidder or that uses criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder in awarding a contract.

The SAA testified in opposition to Assembly Bill 307, the companion bill to SB 236, at an Assembly hearing in July (See SAA Testimony).

The SAA opposes SB 236.  SAA members interested in testifying against the bill should contact SAA as soon as possible.

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